“Getting the right patient to the right place at the right time, every time should be the goal of the triage system and triage team.”

Dr. Cy Frank, Orthopaedic Surgeon (1949-2015)


Triaging is a process designed to make sure that every patient receives the right treatment at the right time to ensure the best possible result.

Unfortunately there are consequences to delayed or inaccurate triaging that can result in inappropriate care, loss of a limb, permanent disability, chronic pain, dependency on pain medications and potentially death.

To reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, telehealth services are now considered the safest method of triaging orthopaedic conditions.

A telehealth appointment is not considered a substitute for a face-to-face appointment but is considered better than no appointment at all – especially for those living in communities without easy access to a local orthopaedic surgeon or orthopaedic physiotherapist.

Example: 95% of all physiotherapists in Canada reside in 8% of Canada’s land mass, leaving thousands of rural Canadians at an increased risk of delayed triaging leading that could result in the consequences listed above.    To reduce the risks and consequences of delayed experienced triaging, teleorthopaedic services are now readily available online.


Why is triaging so important to you?


Proceeding to any form of medical treatment without an accurate and reliable diagnosis can be potentially life-threatening and that’s why triaging is so important.

Triaging is based on a diagnostic process that assumes there could be more than one cause for a patient’s symptoms (differential diagnosis).

Because each cause can have a different treatment plan, it’s important to make the most accurate and reliable diagnosis as soon as possible.

The diagnostic process involves five steps in the following order;

  1. Learning your symptoms and asking you a series of questions.
  2. Making a list of all possible causes for a your complaints and  symptoms.
  3. Ranking all possible causes from the most threatening cause to the least threatening cause.
  4. Ruling out each possible cause, starting from the most threatening to the least threatening (physical exam +/- tests)
  5. As each possible cause is crossed off the list, your physician or physiotherapist will move to the next cause on the list to rule it out, until they come to cause (diagnosis) that best fits your complaints and symptoms.

An accurate diagnosis is what allows your physician or physiotherapist to design the right treatment plan for you or to refer you to another healthcare professional (i.e. specialist).

In order to rule out a given diagnosis, healthcare professionals depend on patients for information such as “When did your pain start?” and “Can you think of anything you did that could have caused your pain?”, or “Have you lost weight unintentionally?

Some of these questions may seem silly, but trust me, each question is important to ensure that you get the right treatment at the right time.

To give you and idea of the potential causes of joint pain that need to be ruled out before proceeding to treatment, please click on the links below.

Bottom line; Do not ignore joint undiagnosed joint or muscle pain. Contact your physician or physiotherapist to get on the right treatment plan as soon as possible.

Terry Kane, Registered Physiotherapist.


Causes of Shoulder Pain

Causes of Elbow Pain

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